Green Bay Packers vs. New York Giants: Essential matchups

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January 16, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Green Bay Packers tackle
David Bakhtiari. Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

David Bakhtiari versus Olivier Vernon

Overall, the Packers’ offensive line has done fabulous work in protecting Rodgers despite his tendency to hold on to the ball longer than most of his contemporary peers. PFF recently ranked Green Bay’s blocking unit third overall due in large part to giving up a league-low 17 pressures.

The best of the bunch has been Bakhtiari who ranks second at his position in the area of pass protection with an 84.4 rating trailing only Cincinnati’s Andrew Whitworth who checks in with an 85.8 score.

The former Colorado Buffalo’s footwork has steadily improved since Ted Thompson drafted him in the fourth round of the 2013 draft. Bakhtiari routinely maintains his balance in his drops while staying low in his blocking stance.

In Green Bay’s win over Detroit, the 25-year-old bookend was one step ahead of Lions’ pass rushers by anticipating their moves while veering them away from the pocket and avoiding being called for a single penalty.

But while the 310-pound tackle is highly regarded from a statistical perspective, so is Vernon, who signed a five-year, $85-million contract to play for Ben McAdoo’s squad in the offseason.

So far the Giants’ exorbitant investment has been worth every penny. The numbers say he’s the fifth-best defensive end in the PFF categories of pass defense, run defense and pass coverage; the tape says he’s a relentless competitor who comes after you all game long with every he’s got.

Vernon can beat tackles with inside and outside moves as well as being very active against the run. The one-time Miami Dolphin was last seen putting his natural burst to good use by chasing Vikings’ ball carriers down the line from left to right.

Maintaining his balance will be key for Bakhtiari in this matchup. He can’t allow himself to be overaggressive against an edge rusher with long arms and quick first step that can cross-face opponents that lunge at him.

No. 69 has only allowed one sack on the year thus far. This comes off the heels of a 2015 season that saw him concede the third-fewest sacks (3) in his 14 games played.

Bakhtiari will need to be at his best against the Giants’ best passing rusher who has registered 11 hurries in his last two games.

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb. Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb. Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Randall Cobb & Richard Rodgers Versus Giants Secondary

Expect McCarthy to follow Norv Turner’s lead in exploiting a banged-up Giants’ secondary. The Vikings’ offensive coordinator’s game plan centered around targeting the weakest links in the opposition’s defensive backfield, namely cornerback Trevin Wade.

The Austin, Texas native was physically overmatched against 6-foot-6, 265-pound tight end Kyle Rudolph who shielded him on in-breaking routes. Wade was also beaten clean off the line of scrimmage late in the game on a 40-yard pass down the left sideline to Charles Johnson.

Now, in the event that both Rodgers-Cromartie and Apple are back, Wade’s role in the defense may be minimized or completely nullified.

However, the G-Men can also be attacked at their safety positions over the middle. This is the part of the field where (Richard) Rodgers and Cobb earn their money.

Strong safety Landon Collins is a player on the rise, but he’s at his best when he’s running downhill toward the line of scrimmage…not in reverse. There’s no doubt that he will have issues keeping pace with Cobb’s suddenness in and out of his breaks on plays where the two will undoubtedly match up on underneath routes.

Also look for Andrew Adams to make his second NFL start in place of the injured (Darian) Thompson. The former practice-squad member can be a physical defensive back, but he lacks the range to cover the back end from sideline to sideline.

Once again, this is where Cobb comes in with his ability to run shallow horizontal routes that should allow him to gobble up significant yards after the catch.

Slot receivers have performed well against the Giants averaging 5.5 receptions for 61 yards.

As for (Richard) Rodgers, his sure-handedness has earned the trust of his quarterback to deliver him the ball along the sidelines and in the middle of the field. Both Adams and inside linebacker (Jonathan) Casillas can be beaten in space.

Don’t discount McCarthy lining up Jordy Nelson in the slot at some point for that very reason.

As for starting cornerback Janoris Jenkins, there were moments during Monday night’s game where the well-paid cover man displayed timing issues that could leave him susceptible to penalties. He can also be knocked off balance by a precise route runner, as seen in his efforts to shadow Stefan Diggs.

There should be opportunities for multiple Packers’ weapons to make their mark in the passing game.